Ivan Emke, a professor at Grenfell Campus, gave an update on the group’s efforts during a Rotary Club of Corner Brook luncheon Thursday.
The support group, which works in conjunction with the Association for New Canadians, has come a long way in raising money, supplies and services for the family’s arrival, even though the group of Corner Brook residents only came together this past fall.
“It all started from one email,” said Emke. “So many things in the world come from very small seeds.”
The group has a goal to raise $27,000 for the family, which will assist in living expenses for their first 12 months in Corner Brook.
So far, $16,000 has been raised, with more fundraisers planned for the near future. Much of the money has come from people who weren’t even asked to open their wallets.
“A number of times people have just handed us a for a thousand dollars, and we’ve had about three or four $1,000,” said Emke. “It sort of takes you aback.”
Little is known about the family right now. Emke says names and other identifying details are kept under wraps for the family’s own protection, in case ISIS or others might want to target refugees looking to leave the area.
The group does know, however, that this family has spent time in a refugee camp overseas, and the two children are eight and nine years old.
Preparing for a family of four to arrive can be tricky when you don’t know much about them. Emke says it would be nice to know what size clothes they wear and what kind of food they’re used to cooking so the support group can properly supply those things.
Emke said there is no firm date for the family’s arrival, but it’s anticipated they’ll be flying into the Deer Lake airport sometime in mid January.
On top of the money raised, people from the Corner Brook area have been offering donations of furniture, supplies and volunteer time. Emke called it “a remarkably supportive response,” and said he hasn’t heard many negative or xenophobic remarks about what the group is doing.
“This isn’t just about one Syrian refugee family,” said Emke. “This is about us proving to ourselves that we can be a welcoming place, and to help people to integrate and become a part of who we are here.”